May is National Blood Pressure Month, an annual reminder to take charge of our health and understand the importance of maintaining healthy blood pressure levels.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a common condition where the pressure of blood against artery walls is consistently elevated. If left untreated, this can result in major health issues such as an increased chance of heart disease and stroke.
What causes hypertension?
There are various factors that can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure, such as genetics, age, and lifestyle choices.
Lifestyle factors that can cause high blood pressure include smoking, lack of exercise, and consumption of ultra-processed foods high in salt, sugar, and saturated fats.
Medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and kidney disease can also increase the risk of developing high blood pressure.
Stress also has a significant impact on blood pressure levels. When we experience stress, our bodies release hormones that cause the heart to beat faster and blood vessels to constrict, which can lead to an increase in blood pressure.
What kind of hormones?
Adrenaline and cortisol.
Adrenaline, also known as epinephrine, is a hormone that prepares the body for the "fight or flight" response to stress. It increases heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate, providing the body with the energy it needs to respond to a perceived threat.
Cortisol, often called the "stress hormone," is released by the adrenal glands in response to stress. It helps regulate blood sugar levels and blood pressure and plays a role in the body's immune response.
Over time, chronic stress can lead to sustained high blood pressure levels, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke. So keep your stress in check! Managing stress through relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing can help support healthy blood pressure levels and overall cardiovascular health.
What can happen if I do nothing?
Unaddressed high blood pressure will greatly affect a person's well-being. People with high blood pressure may have symptoms like headaches, dizziness, and difficulty breathing.
Over time, high blood pressure can damage the walls of the arteries and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Is there a gut health connection?
YES! Recent studies have established a strong link between gut health and blood pressure.
In 2013, scientists from Johns Hopkins and Yale Universities made an interesting discovery. They found out that a particular receptor, which is usually present in our nose, can also be found in blood vessels all over the human body.
This receptor is responsible for detecting - or sniffing out - small molecules that are produced by the microbes present in our gut.
When these molecules are detected, the receptor responds by raising the blood pressure. This discovery indicates that gut bacteria play a crucial role in maintaining the body's blood pressure. Go science!
Who knew that the gut microbiome impacts our blood pressure? (We did!!)
Further studies have found that an unhealthy gut microbiome, which is marked by an imbalance of helpful bacteria, can cause inflammation and raise the likelihood of developing high blood pressure.
On the other hand, a happy, healthy gut microbiome will produce compounds that relax blood vessels and regulate blood pressure levels. Cool, right?!
So what can we do?
Always talk with your healthcare team about any concerns with your blood pressure!
Luckily, making lifestyle changes can help in controlling blood pressure levels and lowering the chances of developing high blood pressure. Prevention! Prevention! Prevention!
One way to improve health is by adopting a high-fiber lifestyle. Foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contain prebiotic soluble fiber, which helps to regulate blood pressure levels.
Soluble fiber can be beneficial in improving cholesterol levels and reducing inflammation in the body, which are factors that contribute to high blood pressure.
In addition, soluble fiber promotes gut health. Remember, when the gut microbiome is healthy, it produces compounds that can relax blood vessels and decrease inflammation, which helps regulate blood pressure levels.
Incorporating prebiotic soluble fiber into your meal plan can be as simple as adding more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to your meals. Some examples of high-fiber foods include oats, quinoa, apples, berries, and beans.
Aim for 30 grams of fiber every day! If it's difficult, which is common, consider a supplement, like just better.® fiber to help you reach your high-fiber goals.
Maintaining healthy blood pressure is an important part of your wellness journey. Understanding the risk factors and adopting a high-fiber lifestyle can help manage blood pressure levels and reduce the risk of developing hypertension. So stay calm and fiber on!